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t he n e w sl e t t e r o f t he

minnesota herpetological society


Information edited/removed to respect privacy concerns.

April 13th at the General Meeting: White Snake Sale! (Let’s try it again with good weather this time.)

Special Speaker April 6th:

Dr. John Weins

“Treefrogs, Trees, and the Roots of Tropical Biodiversity”

A PR IL 2 0 07



President Bruce Haig

Board of Directors


Vice Presid ent Jennifer Hensley

Recording Secretary Ellen Heck

Membership Secretary George Richard

Members at Large Todd Turner

The Purpose of the Minnesota Herpetological Society is to:

Sarah Richard David Dewitt

Carmelita Knudson


Webmaster Anke Reinders

The Minnesota H er pet ol og i ca l S o c i e t y

April 2007 Volume 27, Number 4

Newsletter Editor Asra Halvorson

Education Jan Larson


V O I C E M A I L : 612.624.7065 • M H S W E B P A G E : HTTP :// WWW. MNHERPSOC . ORG M H S G R O U P E M A I L : H T T P :// W W W. G R O U P S . YA H O O . C O M / G R O U P / M N H E R P S O C

Treasurer Nancy Haig

Adoption Sarah Richard



• of • •

Further the education of the membership and the general public in care and captive propagation reptiles and amphibians; Educate the members and the general public in the ecological role of reptiles and amphibians; Promote the study and conservation of reptiles and amphibians.

The Minnesota Herpetological Society is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization. Membership is open to all individuals with an interest in amphibians and reptiles. The Minnesota Herpetological Society Newsletter is published monthly to provide its members with information concerning the society’s activities and a media for exchanging information, opinions and resources. General Meetings are held at Borlaug Hall, Room 335 on the St. Paul Campus of the University of Minnesota, on the first Friday of each month (unless there is a holiday conflict). The meeting starts at 7:00pm and lasts about three hours. Please check the MHS Voice mail for changes in schedules or cancellations. Submissions to the Newsletter Ads or Notices must be submitted no later than the night of the General Meeting to be included in the next issue. Longer articles will be printed as time and space allows and should be in electronic file format if possible. See inside back cover for ad rates. Submissions may be sent to: The Minnesota Herpetological Society Attn: Newsletter Editor Bell Museum of Natural History 10 Church St. SE. Minneapolis, MN 55455.0104

Copyright 2007, Minnesota Herpetological Society. Except where noted, contents may be reproduced for non-profit, noncommercial use only. All material must be reproduced without change. Proper credit will be given including the author/photographer and the MHS Newsletter citing: volume, number and date.

The Newsletter of the Minnesota Herpetological Society

April 2007

Volume 27

Number 4

Why are ther'e so many species in the tropics?

"Treefrogs, trees, and the roots of tropical biodiversity" Dr. Joh n Wi,ens Department of Eco logy and Evolution, Stony Brook University

Friday, April 6th, 2007, 7:00 PM 335 Borlaug Hall, University of Minnesota, St .. Pau l Campus Free and op n to the public - present d by the Student Chapter of

The Minnesota Herpetological Society 3

News, Notes, & Announcements

The Newsletter of the Minnesota Herpetological Society

April 2007

Volume 27

Number 4


MHS’s White Snake Sale has been rescheduled to our April 13th meeting! Also, mark your calendars for a special seminar April 6th, with Dr. John Weins. Details for Dr. Wein’s presentation is on page 3. April’s a double-dose of herps month!

Midwest Herpetological Symposium Our neighbors are hosting!

The 2007 Midwest Herpetological Symposium will be held by the Iowa Herpetological Society on November 9, 10, & 11, 2007. More details to come, but mark your calendars now!

Needed: Your Feedback

I recently set up an online form so that MHS newsletter readers can leave feedback whenever they’d like. I strongly encourage every reader to do so, so that I might get a better understanding of what each member is looking for in their membership publication. Please let me know what your tastes are!



Cover photo © Jeff LeClere


The Newsletter of the Minnesota Herpetological Society

April 2007

Wanted: Newsletter Submissions

Volume 27

Number 4

If you haven’t noticed, several months ago I made the decision to cut out four pages of the newsletter due to an overabundance of space. Even with that decision, it’s been hard to get some original work from our members into this newsletter lately. Here’s a list of ways that you as an MHS member can contribute!


Articles are one area where I know you members out there have some stories to tell! Perhaps you’ve had a memorable visit to the Reptile Gardens, perhaps your uncle works at an alligator farm, perhaps your herp made a miraculous recovery or was lost and happened to wander back one day. Maybe you have a story about joining the herpetological society. Maybe you’ve been a member of another herpetological society and would like to tell the differences between them. For reference, one page in the newsletter is equal to approximately 640 words.

Cover Photos

These should have a resolution of 200-300dpi and be about 8x6in. Horizontal formats work best, as they don’t require significant cropping. If they’re in color, I can easily turn them into black and white, not a big deal.

Original Artwork

Back in the day, there was a member named Fran Frisch who would often jot down amusing little cartoons to put in the newsletter. I’m sure you’ve seen them, as we’ve been putting them in here and there during the past few years. Perhaps you enjoy doodling herps; you could very easily submit these to the newsletter! Cartoons, realistic works, photoshopped humorous items, etc. All are welcome! Give your right brain a workout!

General Meeting Photographer

This has been a relatively recent need, as I’ve recently started a new job which requires that I work most Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Consequently, my attendance has been scattered, and I haven’t been able to get pictures at the meetings. If there’s anyone who would like to photograph the goings-on at the meetings, including getting a good picture of the speaker, any hands-on animals & owners, etc., that would be greatly appreciated! Please email me if you are interested in being the General Meeting Photographer, or if you have submissions for the newsletter.


APRIL... The Newsletter of the Minnesota Herpetological Society

April 2007

Volume 27

Number 4

April’s looking to be pretty special. Not only do we have two great events this month, but April is also Zoo & Aquarium Month, as well as the month containing Earth Day, April 22. So, get out to a zoo or two this month, read up on some environmental literature, and attend our speaker and the White Snake Sale (great for reusing and recycling!).

Goannas under threat after cane toad invasion

A Northern Territory environmental group is appealing to Darwin residents to keep an eye out for cane toads in their back yards, fearing the Top End's largest goanna will soon be endangered. Frogwatch says the yellow-spotted monitor - or flood-plain monitor - eats cane toads and dies as a result. Frogwatch's Ian Morris says numbers have dropped dramatically since the toads came along.

"There are still yellow-spotted monitors in Darwin that haven't been invaded by toads," he said.

"East Point still has them, and areas like that that we've been able to isolate from toads so far at least, but most areas where they were common they went down like a tonne of bricks." -ABC News, 7 March 2007. 03/s1865057.htm


The Newsletter of the Minnesota Herpetological Society

April 2007

Volume 27

Number 4

The World's Most Explosive Tongue: Salamander can extend its tongue half its body length in 7 milliseconds

The giant palm salamander of Central America shoots out its tongue with more instantaneous power than any known muscle in the animal kingdom, a new study finds.

The salamander, Bolitoglossa dofleini, can shoot out its tongue with 18,000 watts of power per kilogram of muscle. This is nearly double the power output of the previous champ, the Colorado River toad Bufo alvarius.

Bolitoglossa can extend its tongue more than half its body length in about 7 milliseconds, or about 50 times faster than an average eye blink.

Stephen Deban of the University of South Florida and his colleagues used high-speed video cameras and electrodes implanted in the salamanders’ tongue muscles to monitor the animals as they launched at live crickets.

The findings revealed the tongues were propelled outward much faster than could be achieved by muscle contraction alone. The researchers think that still unidentified elastic tissue attached to the salamander’s tongue stores up energy in

preparation for an explosive action.

Deban likens the process to stretching and shooting a rubber band: the recoil occurs faster than the act of releasing a rubber band pulled taut. “The amount of energy doesn’t change; it’s just released faster,” Deban told LiveScience.


How the salamander achieves its record power output is I’ve gotta work still unclear. out more. Tongue-launching systems in other animals require three components: a motor to generate energy, a spring to store the energy and a latch to control the timing of unloading of the spring. Scientists have so far identified only the motor in the salamander

“What remains to be discovered are the anatomical structures that make up the spring and the latch,” the researchers write in the Feb. 15 issue of the Journal of Experimental Biology. Than, Ker. “The World’s Most Explosive Tongue.” MSNBC website. 6 March 2007.

A sn ake, with mottles rare, Surveyed my chamber floor, In feature as the worm before, But ringed with power.

-Emily Dickinson, from “In Winter in My Room” lines 14–17


The Newsletter of the Minnesota Herpetological Society

Regenerative medicine: Tadpole artificially induced to grow back tail

Scientists at Forsyth may have moved one step closer to regenerating human spinal cord tissue by artificially inducing a frog tadpole to re-grow its tail at a stage in its development when it is normally impossible. Using a variety of methods including a kind of gene therapy, the scientists altered the electrical properties of cells thus inducing regeneration. This discovery may provide clues about how bioelectricity can be used to help humans regenerate.

This study, for the first time, gave scientists a direct glimpse of the source of natural electric fields that are crucial for regeneration, as well as revealing how these are produced. In addition, the findings provide the first detailed mechanistic synthesis of bioelectrical, molecular-genetic, and cellbiological events underlying the regeneration of a complex vertebrate structure that includes skin, muscle, vasculature and critically spinal cord. Although the Xenopus (frog) tadpole sometimes has the ability to re-grow its tail, there are specific times during its development that regeneration does not take place (much as human children lose the ability to regenerate finger-tips after 7 years of age). During the Forsyth study, the activity of a yeast proton pump (which produces H+ ion flow and thus sets up regions of higher and lower pH) triggered the regeneration of the frog’s tail during the normally quiescent time. This research will be published in the April issue of Development and will appear online on February 28, 2007.

According to the publication’s first author, Dany Adams, Ph.D., Assistant Research Investigator at the Forsyth Institute, applied electric fields have long been known to enhance regeneration in amphibia, and in fact have led to clinical trials in human patients. “However, the molecular sources of relevant currents and the mechanisms underlying their control have remained poorly understood,” said Adams. “To truly make strides in regenerative medicine, we need to understand the innate components that underlie

April 2007

Number 4

bioelectrical events during normal development and regeneration. Our ability to stop regeneration by blocking a particular H+ pump and to induce regeneration when it is normally absent, means we have found at least one critical component.”

The research team, led by Michael Levin, Ph.D., Director of the Forsyth Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology has been using the Xenopus tadpole to study regeneration because it provides an opportunity to see how much can be done with non-embryonic (somatic) cells during regeneration, and it is a perfect model system in which to understand how movement of electric charges leads to the ability to re-grow a fully functioning tail. Furthermore, said Dr. Levin, tail regeneration in Xenopus is more likely to be similar to tissue renewal in human beings than some other regenerative model systems. The Forsyth scientists previously studied the role that apoptosis, a process of programmed cell death in multi-cellular organisms, plays in regeneration.

Michael Levin, PhD. is an Associate Member of the Staff in The Forsyth Institute Department of Cytokine Biology and the Director of the Forsyth Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology. Through experimental approaches and mathematical modeling, Dr. Levin and his team examine the processes governing large-scale pattern formation and biological information storage during animal embryogenesis. The lab investigates mechanisms of signaling between cells and tissues that allows a living system to reliably generate and maintain a complex morphology. The Levin team studies these processes in the context of embryonic development and regeneration, with a particular focus on the biophysics of cell behavior. The Forsyth Institute is the world’s leading independent organization dedicated to scientific research and education in oral, craniofacial and related biomedical sciences.

-press release, 28 February 2007

Sounds like one leap back for frogkind. I just got rid of that #*&$% tail.


Volume 27

The Newsletter of the Minnesota Herpetological Society

April 2007

Volume 27

Number 4

Anole Lizards “Shout” Against a Noisy Background

Lizards that signal to rivals with a visual display “shout” to get their point across, UC Davis researchers have found. Male anole lizards signal ownership of their territory by sitting up on a tree trunk, bobbing their heads up and down and extending a colorful throat pouch. They can spot a rival lizard up to 25 meters away, said Terry Ord, a postdoctoral researcher at UC Davis who is working with Judy Stamps, professor of evolution and ecology. The lizards’ signals need to be strong enough for a rival to see, but not vivid enough to say “Eat me” to a passing predator. But their forest home can be a visually noisy environment, with branches and leaves waving in the breeze and casting patterns of light and shade.

“They have to have a strategy to get their message across,” Ord said. Ord videotaped two species of anole lizards, Anolis Cristatellus and Anolis Gundlachi, in the Caribbean National Forest in Puerto Rico. He found that the more “visual noise” in the background, the faster and more exaggerated the movements of the lizards. Anole lizards are interesting to evolutionary biologists because different species are found on different islands all over the Caribbean. The lizards are not particularly closely related—they are separated by 30 million years of evolution—but they live in similar environments with the same obstacles to communication. So Ord is using them as a model to investigate the evolution of such signals.

The other authors on the paper, which is published online in Proceedings of the Royal Society Part B, are Richard A. Peters, Australian National University, Canberra; and Barbara Clucas, a graduate student in Animal Behavior at UC Davis. The work was supported by grants from the National Geographic Society, the National Science Foundation and the Australian Research Council. UC Davis Press Release, February 21, 2007, accessed from HerpDigest Vol.1#27.

The snake that cannot shed its skin perishes. Likewise those spirits who are prevented from changing their opinions; they cease to be spirits. -Friedrich Nietzsche, Sämtliche Werke: Kritische Studienausgabe, vol. 3, p. 330, eds. Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari, Berlin, de Gruyter (1980). Dawn, “Fifth Book,” aphorism 330, “Shedding Our Skins,” (1881).



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Next Meeting: Friday, April 13, 2007 7:00 PM Room 335 Borlaug Hall, U of M St. Paul Campus MHS Voice Mail: 612.624.7065

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Vol. 27 (2007), No. 4  

Minnesota Herpetological Society Newsletter